Beer is the third-most-consumed liquid in the world (after water and tea), but not long ago it was still surprisingly hard to find a decent beer bar in Los Angeles. No, not an ultra lounge cordoned off by velvet ropes and cologne-soaked bouncers or a high-end speakeasy specializing in retro cocktails. A bar. One that serves craft-brewed beer.
Not anymore. The beer is pouring.
A handful of new beer bars, such as recently opened Stout in Hollywood and soon-to-open the Surly Goat in West Hollywood are making the city more amenable to suds sippers. And after 18 painful months of red tape and construction (mostly red tape), the Eagle Rock Brewery just last week began brewing, making it the only dedicated commercial brewery operating within Los Angeles city limits. Co-founder Jeremy Raub hopes to release the brewery's first three beers by the end of the year.
L.A.'s craft beer revolution has been building steadily, but it couldn't have come soon enough for Alex Kagianaris, 34, co-owner of Stout. "One of the reasons I wanted to open this place was that I couldn't find a place where I could get a good beer in Hollywood," he says.
Taking over the former Karma Coffehouse in Hollywood's Cahuenga Corridor, he and partner Charles Lew, 34, both of whom are lawyers turned bar/restaurant owners, wanted to open a neighborhood place where they could pair high-end burgers with adventurous beers. Dominated by a copper and oak half-circle bar, Stout has 30 taps that pour beers such as Port Hop 15, Saison Dupont and Delirium Tremens. The menu offers nine standard burgers along with suggested beers for each. With the Six Weeker, a coarsely ground, 6-ounce burger dressed with fig compote, arugula, melted brie and caramelized onions ($10) Stout recommends either a Brother David, a rich, light and moderately malted Belgian ale, or a Scaldes, a high-alcohol, heavily malted Belgian dark ale with fruit flavors. Stout has 10 additional 750ml bottled beers ($20 to $50) and six wines ($6 to $13 a glass).
Kagianaris and Lew are already working to expand Stout into a chain of burger-and-beer pubs with three to four more locations planned by the end of 2010. They hope to open the next Stout in downtown L.A. within six months. They're in good company.
"A lot of new restaurants are interested in having a craft beer list," says beer aficionado Hallie Beaune, who co-wrote the recently released beer primer "The Naked Pint"; with Christina Perozzi. "We're young as a city in terms of craft beer establishments, but it's all happening right now."
New restaurants and gastropubs such as Wurstkuche in downtown, Boho in Hollywood, Westside Tavern in West L.A., Laurel Tavern and Henry’s Hat in Studio City and Blue Dog Beer Tavern in Sherman Oaks, and Hudson House in Redondo Beach have opened in the last couple of years, emphasizing their eclectic beer menus.
Whatever your thematic proclivities, there's a beer bar for you. Salaryman, adjacent to the newly opened Umami Burger in Los Feliz, presents itself as a Japanese-themed beer bar; the Chalet in Eagle Rock switched from its Swiss ski resort theme to become the Black Boar, an English country pub in August; El Prado in Echo Park appeals to modern minimalists who still crave comfort and warmth. Cultural authenticity may be at a minimum, but the popularity of craft beer, and places to drink it, is at an all-time high.
"Los Angeles has always been slow on the uptake in terms of craft beer, and my philosophy is that beer wasn't sexy enough, it wasn't slick enough," says Perozzi, better known by her self-appointed moniker, "the beer chick." "L.A. has a huge nightclub and cocktail culture rather than a tavern and pub culture. It took a while to catch on, but now that it has, it's exploding. We might be getting oversaturated."
Perozzi, 37, and Beaune, 32, met while working at the godfather of L.A.'s gastropub trend, Father's Office, which requires its bartenders to go through an intensive beer school before pouring. Perozzi says the experience opened her eyes to beers like Craftsman's Triple White Sage, a robust, high-alcohol Belgian-style tripel.
"For a long time, the name of the game was dumbing down beers," says Ryan Sweeney, 33, co-owner of Eagle Rock bar Verdugo, known for its assortment of craft beers.
When Verdugo officially opened in 2008, it had 16 brews on tap (it now has 22). Beers like Allagash Curieux and Saint Bernardus Abt. 12 quickly made the bar popular among beer nerds. "We had some good beers and some pedestrian beers, and we quickly found that people wanted the good beers," Sweeney says.
Verdugo co-owner Brandon Bradford has now partnered with Alen Aivazian and silent partner Adolfo Suaya of Osaka and Boho (where Sweeney curates the beer list) to open the Surly Goat, they hope in late December or early January, in a space that was a series of high-end lounges (24K, iCandy, Seven).
"We have enough clubs and ultra lounges. I like this specific location because there aren't enough bars around here," Sweeney says. The goal is a homey, neighborhood pub rather than an exclusive club. With a name that pays homage to bock, both the German word for billy goat and a type of strong lager, the Surly Goat will offer 27 beers on tap ($5 to $9), one to two cask engines and an additional 100 750ml bottles ($14 to $50). He'll also take advantage of the Surly Goat's walk-in coolers to maintain a cellaring program for more obscure beers and beers that need aging.
"I think there's a huge demand for good beer bars in L.A.," says Kagianaris. "And the more spots there are, the more people will want to go to these places."
Stout Where: 1544 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A. When: 11:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily Price: burgers, $10; beers on tap, $6 to $10; 750ml bottles, $20 to $50; wines by the glass, $6 to $13 Contact: (323) 460-4188 The Surly Goat Where: 7929 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood When: Scheduled to open late December or early January. Will be open 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily Price: beers on tap, $6 to $9; 750ml bottles, $14 to $50